Culture

What is to be called a Maher?

 A typical illustration of “Baharwatias”, horse, sword, gun and dressed in all white.
A typical illustration of “Baharwatias”, horse, sword, gun and dressed in all white.
 

As a young girl, growing up in Kisumu, Kenya to be a Maher was quite the prestige. In our living room we had a picture of Rana Pratap the great warrior and as kids we played with sugarcane swords pretending to be the great warriors we had heard so much about. We had heard stories of the “Baharwatias” I gather these must have been the highway gangsters who robbed the innocent passers by. The tale consisted of some of my ancestors on regal horses who put an end to these robbing. We had horses on our farm and again as kids we played the games and had teams as mahers and baharwatias and of course, the mahers always won!

One of the most prominent features of our women are the tattoos, and most of the times we can tell a Maherani from the other women from the beautiful patterns on their arms and their outfits. In Kenya, the women did not wear the Dharvo and Kapadu, Pachhedo, but occasionally we got to see the order women from India in them. I personally think that the warrior blood runs in both the sexes, as the women are not docile women and will stand up for their rights. My grandmother told us stories about how the women were brave and how they fought to save their villages in the old days. Today’s, it holds true too, have you ever seen anyone beat in an argument with a maharani? I doubt it. This reemphasis out warrior blood.

ln Kenya some of the Maher men wore the Jodpun Surval Made of khaki, with a button jacket, this was somewhat of the brown version of our traditional outfit. The height and the mustache were another give away. As kids you always could tell if they were mahers as the men towered over most men and were the loudest. A lot of the men who lived on the farm had rifles and loved to go hunting and were very good hunters being true warriors.

Another talent that our men have is the dandia ras. You can go for navratri to Kisumu, Leicester, or Northampton, but there is nothing like watching the young men with the dandias in the traditional out fits. Again the maher youth are the only ones who have this unique way of dandias that the rhythm just pulls every string of your soul. Yes, once more it is only us the maher who posses this skillful art in dancing (take a look at the maher cultural video from Porbandar and you will know, what I am talking about).

Although a lot of us of today cannot speak the Maher “bhasha” most of us still understand it. It is one of the signs that makes us different from the rest, as you all know that the language can be quite crude especially in a dispute. Why do you think we have the harsh dialect? Again, it is because we are warriors at heart!

With the globalisation today, it is hard to preserve some of our culture and who we are, but at every Maher gathering, (in USA, Canada, UK, India) if we look around and digest the scenery around us. We can go back to our different lives in different countries without forgetting where we came from, and who we are. In case the memory starts to fade, all we have to do is attend one of the functions and the memory will last you till your next visit.

This can be seen from the videocassettes of Maher Cultural program, arranged by the Supreme Council, Porbandar during January 2001. These Cassettes have been distributed by NAMC, to their Parivar members.

Sunita Odedra (USA)
Sankalp Magazine
April 2003

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